The Leningrad Cowboy

This Sturmovik participated in the liberation of Leningrad in January 1944. Leningrad was surrounded by the Germans in September 1941 and put under sever siege. The Germans however did not manage to take the city and it stayed under siege as fighting concentrated on Stalingrad and other parts of the front. The city was supplied during the first winter over the frozen Laduga lake under sever losses. In January 1943 the Soviet managed to open an narrow corridor to the city but it was not until January 27 1944 that the siege was really broken. The city had then been besieged for 872 days one of the longest sieges in history.

The aircraft is an Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik known as the Soviet flying tank. With 36,183 units of the IL-2 produced during the war, and in combination with its successor, the Ilyushin Il-10, a total of 42,330 were built, making it the single most produced military aircraft design in aviation history. Stalin said about them: "They are as essential to the Red Army as air and bread".  At first they were single seaters but the pilots found them to vulnerable and a few were retro fitted with a rear gunner. This modification later became standard on later models.

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